The findings of a Denmark-based study revealed that patients with Crohn’s disease have a greater overall risk for colon cancer compared to the general public, but the same was not true for those with ulcerative colitis. The researchers looked at 1,437 patients with ulcerative colitis and 774 with Crohn’s disease between 1978 and 2002. Follow-up was conducted until December 2010, or until cancer incidence, death, or emigration from Denmark.
There were 207 ulcerative colitis patients who developed cancer, with no significant difference in the overall risk even when other contributing factors were taken into account. On the other hand, these patients did have an elevated risk for prostate cancer, especially among those who have used 5-aminosalisylic acid (5-ASA).
Crohn’s disease patients had a higher overall risk of cancer, with 129 patients developing it during the follow-up period. More specifically, these patients had a higher risk of small bowel and lung cancers, as well as cervical dysplasia. Male Crohn’s disease patients were also more likely to develop colon cancer.
An increased risk of lung cancer was associated with smoking and was higher among women. Cervical dysplasia was linked to smoking, 5-ASA use, thiopurine exposure, and younger age at diagnosis. Lymphoma diagnosis in CD patients was associated with nonuse of 5-ASA, younger age, and small bowel and colonic disease.
The researchers wrote, “This population-based cohort study … showed that the overall risk of cancer was increased in CD patients, but not in UC patients. However, the risk of certain subtypes of cancer was significantly higher than in the general population. … Our study’s findings add to the ongoing discussion of ways of differentiating between baseline and treatment-induced cancer risk in IBD patients.”
Risk of colon cancer in Crohn’s disease
It is well documented that Crohn’s disease patients face a higher risk of colon cancer. For this reason, Crohn’s disease patients are advised to undergo routine screening for colon cancer. Two main factors that increase the risk of colon cancer in Crohn’s disease are the severity and duration of Crohn’s disease.
Thomas Ullman, MD, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, explained, “In up to half of Crohn’s disease patients, some or all of the colon is involved. The more colon that’s involved, the greater the risk. And the longer the patient has had chronic inflammation of the colon, the greater the risk as well.”
Those at the highest risk of colon cancer are those with their entire colon affected and inflamed by Crohn’s disease. Those who have inflammation confined to the rectum are at the lowest risk. The risk of colon cancer in Crohn’s disease increases after 10 years of having the disease.
Other factors that can increase your risk of colon cancer include a family history of colon cancer and the development of fistulas.
Here are some tips to lower your risk of colon cancer while living with Crohn’s disease.
- Get regular screenings for colon cancer for polyp checkup and early detection
- Take your medication as prescribed
- Eat a healthy diet
- Quit smoking
By following these tips, you can have greater success in lowering your risk of colon cancer in Crohn’s disease.